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Have you looked at the NVIC Advocacy Portal lately? There is a flurry of activity across state legislatures regarding vaccines. No wait, not a flurry, a snowstorm, even a blizzard. NVIC’s Director of Advocacy Dawn Richardson and Assistant Director of Advocacy, Cindy Loveland, have been tracking
91 bills-including companion bills that appear separately in the House and Senate-across
33 states!

More States, More Bills

Since the NVIC Advocacy Portal launched in 2010, the number of bills threatening the legal right to make informed, voluntary decisions about vaccination in America has been growing at an alarming rate. For comparison, the portal tracked 61 bills in 25 states in 2011.

The 91 bills under consideration for 2013 represent different legislative goals for each state. But when you look at the big picture, Dawn noted that the bills have common themes: attacks on exemptions, employee vaccine mandates, tracking systems/registries, meningitis vaccine mandates and human papillomavirus (HPV) mandates. 

Restricting Exemptions is Most Important Issue To Battle

A number of proposed bills are attempting to restrict the use of conscientious or philosophical, religious and medical exemptions to mandatory vaccination laws. NVIC is spearheading an organized grassroots effort to provide fact-based information about vaccine safety and choice issues to legislators to help them understand the importance of protecting informed consent rights. 

The bills targeting non-medical exemptions for elimination from state public health laws are being supported by a wealthy and politically powerful lobbying coalition – medical trade groups and public health agencies aligned with pharmaceutical companies that take a “no exceptions” approach to mandated use of all government recommended vaccines.

Oregon and Vermont Being Targeted

In Oregon, SB 132 threatens to completely remove the religious exemption, which has always been broadly interpreted, Dawn said. Under the proposed legislation, a parent can request a non-medical, personal exemption to opt out of vaccination for a child, but not without having the additional burden of securing a signature from a state-designated medical practitioner verifying that the parents have received the state’s version of information about the risks and benefits of vaccination. Additionally, the parent will have to obtain a certificate verifying completion of an online vaccine education module.

In Vermont, companion bills HB 138 and SB 102 suspend philosophical and religious exemptions if the vaccination rate falls below 90 percent. There has not been any floor action on these bills, which means there is still time for Vermont residents to make their opinions known to legislators.

Vermont NVIC State Director Jennifer Stella noted these Vermont bills are harmful because the autonomous right to decide whether or not to inject a drug into your body or that of your child should not be contingent upon the number of people exercising that right. She strongly encourages Vermont’s elected lawmakers to consider the importance of unrestricted preservation of the fundamental human right informed consent, and not grant any further power to unelected agencies.